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People’s Jinnah Hall is now used for exhibitions

The Hall was built in 1918 to mark Jinnah’s protest against a reception given to Governor Willingdon.

Mamta Chitnis Sen  Mumbai | 10th Jun 2012

Jinnah Hall on Lamington Road.

ucked away in the middle of dilapidated tenements, brothels and seedy bars of Mumbai's Lamington Road, is a piece of forgotten history. The 4,000 square feet People's Jinnah Hall building built in 1918 had hosted many illustrious political functions. The Hall is now used by various embassies to host auctions or sell exhibits whenever their consul generals retire or are transferred. When this correspondent visited the Hall, the Canadian Consulate was hosting an auction.

Jinnah Hall located inside the compound of the Congress House was built to commemorate Jinnah's protest against the then Bombay Governor, Lord Willingdon's felicitation ceremony. Jinnah and his wife Ratanbai had led the protest and were thrown out by the police. To mark this event, Congress workers contributed money to construct the Hall and named it People's Jinnah Hall. The nameplate was forcibly taken down by the Shiv Sena a few years ago.

Suhas Thakur, the managing trustee of People's Jinnah Hall, says that the Hall was a hub of political activity till at least the 1980s. "Indira Gandhi addressed a gathering here in 1980, with Congress leader S.K. Patil dressed in the traditional nine-yard Maharashtrian sari," he recalls, adding that the birth of the Janata Party too happened here. "Morarji Desai presided over the meeting, which was attended by Jayaprakash Narayan. FormerChief Minister Shankarrao Chavan, upset with the Congress in the late 1970s, had launched his own party, the Maharashtra Samaj Congress with Prabhakar Kunte and P.K. Sawant from the Jinnah Hall," he recalls.

According to him, neither the Pakistan Consulate nor the Maharashtra government remembers this historic place anymore. "They do not have any inkling of the historic importance of this place. Instead, everyone is bothered more about Jinnah House. Jinnah always used to address his speeches here. The entire hall used to be packed, with people even spilling out on the streets," he says.

The Hall is now maintained by the Trust. A nominal fee is charged to let out the premises to host exhibitions or auctions. The money collected is used to preserving the building, which also has the S.K. Patil Hall on the first floor. Land sharks have been eyeing the property for redevelopment, but Thakur says they are in no mood to oblige. "There is too much of history attached to this place and we do not want to upset that."

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